Frequent readers of this site may be familiar with my pet project, the Bargain Basement. In that feature, I put a spotlight on games that don't get the amount of attention they deserve, recommending solid entertainment that can be purchased on the cheap. (Check our archives if you'd like to read more.) With that idea in mind, I can't think of a more perfect example of Basement fodder than the Capcom Classics Collection Remix. However, in order to do it justice, I felt like I'd have to go long-form and give this disc an extended review outside the Basement since it goes the ultra-value route and packs twenty-two complete games onto one small UMD.
Before getting into the title-by-title breakdown, I wanted to throw out a few facts for readers who may not be familiar with this title; first, all the games included in this Remix have been culled from the vast Capcom back-catalog, and most have seen either limited or wide release in American arcades. The technical conversion process involved with getting these games on the PSP has been great, and they're all practically arcade-perfect.
Besides being faithful to the originals, the Digital Eclipse conversion team has done a great job adding various extras like tips, original artwork, and music selections that are all unlocked by meeting certain criteria. In fact, a small menu pops up during gameplay when some of these criteria have been met, doing a very good impersonation of an Xbox 360 Achievement. One final thing to note is that it's possible to enable a "rapid fire" for every single game—a complete godsend. I never really noticed how many old-school games require trashing my thumb to mash the fire button, but being older and having some RSI and ergonomics issues means that Digital Eclipse receives my eternal thanks for keeping it real and giving players like me the option.
...and without further ado, the games.
1941: Counter Attack: Another in the venerable series of WWII-themed vertically-scrolling shooters, I'd say it's also the best one. A good set of power-ups and the signature loop-de-loop maneuver give it a well-rounded feeling. It's also got a great pace with solid action, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It's a nice (if not exactly stunning) entry.
Avengers: A crummy top-down beat-‘em-up. It looks terrible and controls even worse. I have no memories of this game ever being in any arcade I went to, and I couldn't find any redeeming value to justify why it should have been included here. This is exactly the kind of filler that I don't like to see in "classic" collections.
Bionic Commando: Now, this is more like it. BC is a true classic, with the hero's extendable grappling hook inspiring generations of gamers to this day. However, be aware that this is the arcade version and not the superior highly-modified NES version that most players are familiar with. There were a series of Capcom games that were actually better and deeper on the NES than their coin-op counterparts, but even so, it's great for the original Bionic Commando to be included.
Black Tiger: I remember playing this one and thinking it was incredibly awesome at the time, but I see it now as a too-hard action game that doesn't hold up. It comes off as a sort of hybrid between Castlevania and Capcom's underrated Gargoyle series with the main character' flailing his mace and leaping mid-air from pillar to pillar. The downside is that death is never more than three seconds away and there's no unique, defining characteristic to make it stand out when compared to other games that do the exact same thing, only better.
Block Block: It's just like Arkanoid, Breakout, or any of the 10,000 other clones that involve sliding a paddle back and forth at the bottom of the screen and bouncing a ball back up to destroy colored blocks. Mindless fun for five minutes, but I doubt many people will spend much time with it.
Captain Commando: Captain Commando was one of those characters that always made his way into the frenetic Vs games, but I never managed to actually see the game he came from despite all the years I spent in arcades. It's here, and basically a one-off of Final Fight with a wackier vibe and slightly more complicated mechanics, though just barely. I like it more than Final Fight for its irreverence, and it also comes complete with some hotter-than-FF's S&M female bodybuilder enemies, so bonus points for that.
Final Fight: Debatably the most influential and well-known sidescrolling beat-‘em-up of all time, FF gives players the choice between three different characters before taking it to the streets to clean house on a legion of trashy punks and no-good hoodlums. I'm guessing that most people reading this article are already quite familiar with this game, but it's a definite must-play for those who haven't. I just can't imagine someone calling themselves a gamer without having tried this at least once or twice.
Forgotten Worlds: A horizontally-scrolling shooter employing men who can magically fly rather than the traditional airplane or starship. I was completely stunned by the smooth animation of the characters rotating in place the first time I saw it. Easily one of my favorite games from the arcade era. The game is an interesting mix of high-intensity shooting combined with limited upgrades and item shopping, not to mention the ability to fire in a full 360°. A little bit ahead of its time; I would love to see a modern update.
Last Duel: An interesting vertically-scrolling shooter. (Arcades sure had a lot of shooters back then, didn't they?) The main selling point of this entry is that the player controls a vehicle that can transform into a car for certain levels and a jet for others. A neat idea, but it's a pretty shallow experience since the player doesn't control when the vehicle transforms and the levels are quite average, lacking any unique design. Calling this a "classic" is a little sketchy, in my opinion.
Legendary Wings: Another arcade game that was transformed into something better on the NES. LW is an odd shooter that gives heroes a pair of wings and asks them to defend their mythologically-themed world from evil technology. Most of the game is a vertical shooter, but some interior areas inexplicably become a piss-poor platformer of sorts, taking away free flight and replacing it with weak jumps. The enemies in these areas are brutal, and the game as a whole has a high degree of difficulty. It may be a recognizable name for people who've been playing games for many years, but it doesn't hold up.
Mega Twins: An unremarkable side-scrolling platformer that could easily be mistaken for any number of Dragon Ball-inspired games overpopulating the genre during the 16-bit era. It's got some cute visual design and a few things that made me chuckle (the characters fly thanks to some bird hats with flapping wings) but doesn't have much pizzazz and leaves absolutely no impression. I forgot it was even on the disc until I went back and double-checked my information for this review.
Magic Sword: This was another actioner I used to love in the arcade, but unlike Black Tiger, it still holds up decently. The basic formula of taking a warrior up fifty floors of an evil tower lends itself to some fast-paced hacking and slashing, but what keeps it playable is a wide variety of "helper" characters that tag along and lend a hand. Three words: the Lizardman rocks. I never had enough money in my pocket to finish the game in the arcade, so I having this included in the collection was a special treat.
Quiz & Dragons: Surprisingly, this was one of the titles I played the most. Taking one of four characters and walking them around a game board while answering stale trivia questions doesn't seem like a good time, but it was. I think half of my enjoyment came from how dated it seemed, but I'm also a bit of a trivia nut. Getting quizzed for a few minutes whenever I had some PSP time was lightly diverting and didn't require too much involvement, so it felt like a good fit in short bursts.
Section Z: Another of the titles that was a lot better at home than it was in the arcade. This iteration is a very basic horizontal shooter with the player controlling a small astronaut-type character who's basically a piece of bait floating in the air. It's not very pretty, it's not very sophisticated, and it's really, really hard. Shooty players wanting a challenge might want to put in some time with this one, but it's far from my favorite on the disc.
Side Arms: While several games on this UMD made an improved appearance on the NES, SA actually found a home (at home) on the TurboGrafx-16. It was a purchase that tormented me as a child with its harsh, hateful difficulty, and I clearly recall never getting past level 3 after spending so much hard-earned money on it. Well look who's got infinite continues now, b!@tc#3$! Seriously though, the game is unbelievably hard for a side-scrolling shooter and SA specifically is the game that convinced me that Capcom needed to stop making shooters... so many elements are "off" in its balance that there's no satisfaction from playing it at all. If any readers out there can beat the game without using a ton of continues, I'll gladly bow down and call you the king or queen of twitch gaming.
The Speed Rumbler: Interesting yet not very playable, TSR has a quasi Mad Max-ish vibe about it. From an overhead perspective, the player drives a car and shoots other cars or runs over pedestrian enemies. The part that got my attention was that the driver can exit the car at any time to attack on foot, although such action is extremely not recommended. Feeling unfocused and unfriendly, it's one of those odd games from yesteryear that made me wonder who could have ever enjoyed it, even back then.
Street Fighter: The game before the game that started the tremendous fighting genre craze, it's pretty easy to see why this one didn't go anywhere. Although the same basic concepts are here—one-on-one martial arts, etc.—the execution is terrible. I could look past the quaintly stiff animation, but there's no coming to terms with the kind of delay between pushing the button and seeing the attack that requires you to be a precog in order to actually land strikes. Oh, and the opponents? They've got no mercy whatsoever. It's fascinating to see where the most influential fighting game of all time came from (if for nothing else than to see how much the engine has progressed), but this iteration is painfully unplayable.
Strider: It's hard to look back and realize that I paid $70 for an inferior Genesis version of this game brand-new, but I'm not bitter. Strider rocks as one of the most original and memorable titles of its era. Hiryu's lethal flashing blade and then-unsurpassed acrobatics rendered it a must-play every time I walked by its cabinet, and it's not hard to see what I saw in it back then. Although it's made an appearance on modern systems a handful of times before, I was glad to see it here and still think of it as one of the must-plays from its time and for anyone who's interested in gaming history. That crazy zero-g orbit area? Unforgettable.
Three Wonders: Actually three titles in one. TW consists of the platform-actioner Midnight Wanderers, horizontal shooter Chariot, and block-based puzzler Don't Pull. In a unique twist, Midnight Wanderers and Chariot are actually connected. The first game asks the player to defeat enemies and reclaim a magical flying machine, and the second game sees that same flying machine in action. These two titles are beautiful, high-quality and utterly charming. Perfect examples of why hand-drawn animation will never go out of style, their luscious artwork still looks stunning. Don't Pull is the odd man out, unconnected to the other two. Starring a rabbit who pushes blocks to smoosh enemies (push... don't pull, get it? ha-ha), it's a decent game that echoes its contemporaries. It's nothing special, but entertaining for a few minutes.
Varth: The final game on the disc is the textbook definition of a standard vertical shooter. Flying machine taking on hordes of enemies? Check. A basic selection of weapons and power-ups? Check. Unique, distinctive element to differentiate it from the dozens of others? Uh... maybe not. It's not bad and it's worth a quick play-through, but this is another of those unmemorable efforts that I forgot was on the disc.
To wrap things up, I'd like to applaud Capcom for Remix. The variety of games is far better this time around that it was on their first PSP collection, Reloaded, and the overall quality of the selections is quite high. Although the rationale and design behind most of these quarter-munchers have seen their day come and go, they still deliver tasty gameplay in small amounts and fit well on a portable platform. I'd recommend this disc for the historical interest and research purposes alone, so it doesn't hurt that the majority of these titles still have teeth. Without a doubt, Capcom is still one of the most influential and talented houses in the business and has been for decades. Anyone who needs proof need look no further.